In a shocking incident, Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa ‘challenged’ a 10-year-old to touch an open electric socket with a coin. We’ve all heard retorts from our parents such as “If your friends ask you to jump from a building, will you do the same?” Well, as we have moved into a digital, the phrase needs a little rephrasing. Now parents must carefully ask their young kids if they’d do something just because their voice assistant tells them? The report of the ‘lethal’ challenge by Amazon Alexa emerged earlier today after the 10-year-old’s mother narrated the whole incident in a series of tweets.

It should be noted that this is not the first time a voice-assistant came under fire for giving dangerous suggestions to users. Both Siri and Google Assistant have been scrutinized for its replies to users.

Background

Sci-fi author Isaac Asimov formulated a set of three rules of robotics which were used in several of his books that were published in the 1940s and 1950s. One of the rules penned down by the visionary writer read – “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”

Although the rule sounds simple enough, one has to remember that it came at a time when iPhone inventor Steve Jobs wasn’t even born, and neither was world-wide-web inventor Tim Berners-Lee. The rules were formulated at a time mainframe computers were set-up in large rooms, and transistors weren’t even a thing.

After more than 60 years, Asimov’s rule came to the fans of his fiction thanks to a story involving Amazon Alexa, penny and a 10-year-old girl.


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The Facts of the Matter

A parent of a 10-year-old was horrified when Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa gave them a challenge to touch the live prongs of a plug with a penny while the plug is inserted partially into a live electrical outlet.

Why Penny and Plug Are Match Made in Hell?

For those who may know the drastic implications of the ‘challenge’, putting anything metal into a live socket can shock the person holding the metal, and can even lead to fire and other electrical damages. The incident was reported by BBC earlier on Tuesday after the 10-year-old’s mother took to Twitter and shared her experience.


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Horrified Mother Complains About Alexa’s ‘Challenge’ on Twitter

The girl’s mother is reportedly Kristin who wrote, “My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said. In the tweet, Kristin had added a screenshot of a Amazon app where Alexa had responded with “Here’s something I found on the web. According to ourcommunitynow.com: The challenge is simple: plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”

Woman Acknowledges Learning from The Experience

This instantly led netizens to cross-examine the mother of the 10-year-old as to why she had to use Alexa for the simple task of playing with her daughter, and why her daughter has an access to alexa in the first place.

In another reply, the woman acknowledged that that the incident was a good reminder of not trusting things without doing proper research. “It was a good moment to go through internet safety and not trusting things you read without research and verification again. We thought the cesspool of YouTube was what we needed to worry about at this age— with limited internet and social media access—but not the only thing,” the woman had commented.


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“Error fixed…”: Amazon Issues Statement

BBC was one of the first publications to report the incident. Later, Amazon issued a statement via BBC and claimed that it had fixed the issue by taking a swift action on the feedback that they received.

“Customer trust is at the centre of everything we do and Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers. As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it,” the statement read.

 

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